Software is the key; hardware is the door, says Xilinx’s Willard Tu.

Reconfigurable processors and chips, such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), are finding their way into advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The ability for OEMs to alter hardware offers a valuable security advantage, according to the senior director at the San Jose, CA-based FPGA manufacturer.

During last week’s live webinar titled Reconfigurable Chips for Automated/Connected and Cyber-Secure Vehicles, an attendee asked:

“How can hardware reconfiguration help to address cybersecurity?”

In the edited response below, Willard Tu offers an analogy of how the partial reconfiguration of the arrays are being used to lock down the connected car.

Willard Tu: Senior Director of Automotive Business, Xilinx: Imagine you have a door to your home. You have a key lock on that door.

If you’re a hacker or a thief, once you understand the mechanism, you’re able to hack or open that door the same way. I can replace and change the key, but the technique to defeating the lock is exactly the same: I rake the pins, I apply some pressure on the tumbler, and I can pick the lock.

With reconfigurable hardware, now I want to take that locking mechanism and switch it out. Instead of having a key lock, I can replace it with a combination lock or a biometric lock.

The idea of hardware reconfigured is I can change the physical capability of the application beyond just the software. Software, if you think about it, is just the key combination, or the key itself, or the biometric handprint. Hardware is changing the physical mechanism of the door.

To learn more about the cybersecurity benefits of partial reconfiguration, see the full presentation: Reconfigurable Chips for Automated/Connected and Cyber-Secure Vehicles.